Mixed Feelings About "Donors Choose"

Once in a while, things just sort of blow up over at my Chicago blog, District 299, and this week was no different. But I think some good may have come of it in the end.

It's not a local story, really, since Donors Choose is all over the place. It all started when I posted that I had some uncertain, ambivalent feelings about the program, an Internet-based philanthropy (and media darling) that allows individual teachers and donors to match up without an intervening organization or foundation.

So far, so what? I wonder about things all the time, and everyone knows I'm the cranky and suspicious type. However, the post was rebuffed vigorously in the comments section as an unwarranted attack on a helpful and innovative effort. And that was only the beginning (Mixed Feelings About Donors Choose). Take a look -- 30 comments so far -- and see what I'm talking about.

In Defense Of Reading First...And Friendship?

Fordham's Mike Petrilli really really ratches up the indignation in this post (Reading Last), in which Petrilli points out that RF director Chris Doherty (right) was only doing what Congress asked him to do, cites studies that show that the program is actually working, and lambasts the press for missing these things and the USDE and Congress and (especially) Spellings for not defending a program they collectively designed, enacted, and implemented -- or the man they hired to do the job.

These are most of them very good points, and some of them (esp. about Spellings) I've made in the past. My only problem is that Petrilli was in the USDE then, too, and should discuss what if any role he had in RF implementation, whether he knows Doherty personally, etc. (It seems clear he does. He mentions him admiringly in a HotSeat interview here.) My only question is what Petrilli's statement will offend Administration and Hill Republicans enought to hinder big Fordham initiatives like national testing and WSF.

UPDATE: Petrilli says that he's identified as a former USDE official in the NRO version of this commentary, and that he and Chris are friends. Meanhwile, Senator Harkin (but not Sen. Kennedy, far as I know), joins Congressman Miller in issuing a press release calling for action on the situation. Miller called for a criminal investigation. Harkin calls for a look into what Spellings knew, and when she knew it.

Report: Iranian Science Teachers May Be Enriching Students

"'We have reason to believe that specially trained Iranian science teachers are taking raw, unrefined brain power and bombarding it with knowledge at accelerated levels,' said U.S. Undersecretary Of Defense For Intelligence Stephen Cambone at a Tuesday press conference, according to this report from The Onion (Report: Iranian Science Teachers May Be Enriching Students). 'If current levels of student concentration remain this high, Iran could be a mere five to eight years away from developing an atomic scientist.'"

Maybe this is what's really behind the recent spate of school reform proposals focused on internatonal competitiveness.

Facebook Hates NCLB

Don't be mistaken, those crazy kids and their social networking sites aren't just interested in music and fashion. They're pretty ferocious about their politics, too. And if the numbers on Facebook.com (predominantly college students) are any indication, they don't like NCLB very much.

The largest NCLB issue group on Facebook is called No Child Left Behind, should be left behind and has 13,000+ members. The next largest group about NCLB is called Abolish NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and has 3,000+ members. The only groups the support NCLB have a total of 7 members, Save No Child Left Behind and I support the "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" ACT. Check it out -- registration required.

UPDATE:I contacted the Facebook member who started the No Child Left Behind, should be left behind group, asking her why she started it.When election groups were introduced on Facebook she said there weren't any groups she particularly felt strongly towards so she started her own.As a first year teacher at a school that is working to avoid the government taking it over. She says she isn't surprised the group has grown so large -- because she feels most educators are aware of NCLB's flaws. She also notes that education is an issue that determines her vote in every election and thinks there isn't enough debate about educational issues.

Morning Round-Up September 29 2006

More Clout Sought for Social Studies in U.S. Law Wash Post
With unprecedented requirements for annual testing in reading and math, a 2002 federal law put a premium on student achievement in those subjects. But some Virginia educators contend that No Child Left Behind has left a vital field behind: social studies.

More questions in Colo. school shooting AP
Investigators were piecing together evidence Friday to try to determine the motive of the gunman who held six girls hostage in a high school classroom, sexually assaulting some before killing one and committing suicide.

Escape Hatch for Incompetent Teachers Closed LAT
In a rare defeat for teachers' unions, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Thursday to make it easier for some principals to reject incompetent teachers.


What Happens To NCLB Under Democratic Control,
& When Comes Reauthorization?

Just about the time the NCLB Commission report comes out this winter, we'll be finding out whoruns the education committees. In this week's EdWeek, Alyson Klein reminds everyone that even if the Dems win control, neither Kennedy nor Miller would overturn or gut NCLB but it could undergo more changes than if there's no shift in control (Political Shift Could Temper NCLB Resolve).

For Kennedy and Miller, holding the line will be even harder if the Dems are in control than it has been from the minority side, and Klein sketches out some of the ways in which rambunctious and/or unpredictable folks like Chris Dodd and Lynn Woolsley or new members might push to soften NCLB or change the direction.

Bottom line: there is more likelihood of substantial changes to NCLB under Democratic control of Congress than there is if the Republicans remain in place. But we don't know if there's going to be a change, and the Reading First thing and higher ed reauthorization could both get in the way.

My completely ridiculous prediction: NCLB doesn't get reauthorized in 07 OR 08, but instead is left for a new administration. Hey, it's happened before -- and not too long ago: the 1994 IASA amendments didn't get revamped for seven years.

Are There Hotties In the Ivy Leagues?

If you liked last year's Hot for Education then you might be interested in the Faculty Studs & Tenured Temptresses over at IvyGate. I already voted for Adam Cannon from Columbia and Tamsen Wolff from Princeton.

Update: I saw the results for my votes and most people voted for the same people!

School Shooting In Bailey

Incidents of school violence like that in Bailey, Colorado are both gripping and hard to blog about, but this morning's NPR piece does a good job of covering the story and linking to past pieces about school violence (School Siege Ends with Death of Student Hostage).

Morning Round-up September 28, 2006

As 2 Bushes Try to Fix Schools, Tools Differ NYT
One reason Governor Jeb Bush may be wading into the debate over the federal law is that every year since the law took affect in 2002, the school-grading systems have contradicted each other.

Judge Dismisses Most of No Child Lawsuit
Hartford Courant
Judge Mark Kravitz dismissed three counts, saying state officials can't challenge the law until they have violated it.

Hospital, Schools To Develop Curriculum
The Loudoun County School District will partner with Inova Loudoun Hospital to develop courses that will give more high school students hans-on training in medical professions.


School Life: Cupcakes, Raunchy T-Shirts, & Immigrants For Immersion

Sorry, Cupcake, You're Not Welcome in Class LA Times
The days of the birthday cupcake — smothered in a slurry of sticky frosting and with a dash of rainbow sprinkles — may be numbered in schoolhouses across the nation.Some educators say they've come up with alternatives for celebrations: carrots, reading and special seat cover

Teens' T-Shirts Make Educators Squirm Washington Post
Ashli Walker rifled through a rack of designer T-shirts one recent afternoon, pondering which one she should buy and wear the next day to Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County.

Tongue Lashing Teacher Magazine
Bilingual education was the norm for years. But lately, even immigrants are leaning towards immersion.

Carnival Back Home For 86th Edition

The Carnival returns home to the The Education Wonks for the 86th edition today. As usual, the whole carnival is a great read and started off well with:

"In this post-NCLB world of standards and accountability, political conservatives continue to debate what role, if any, the federal government should have in the formulation of education policy. The Upside Down World stakes its position."

Be sure to read the rest of the carnival and check out the archives.

Spellings In Kiev...Reveals She's Ukrainian

It's not exactly as big as former governor George Allen revealing/finding out his Jewish descent, but today we find out that our well-travelled education secretary is not only in Kiev, Ukraine, leading a delegation to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the tragedy at Babyn Yar and delivering remarks about "the important role of education in fighting ignorance and prejudice. " She's also Ukranian by descent.

Who knew? Not I. Who cares? Not sure anyone. Read below for the stirring remarks she delivered at the Kiev Opera House.


Her remarks:

Thank you. President Yushchenko, President Katsav, President Vujanovic, President Mesic, and distinguished guests: On behalf of President Bush and the American people and as a person of Ukrainian descent, it’s an honor to be here. President Bush sends his regards and has asked me to share his thoughts and prayers with you.

I want to thank Ambassador William Taylor and the other members of our delegation. Vince Obsitnik is a former member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. Gregg Rickman is the U.S. State Department’s special envoy for combating anti-Semitism. And Fred Zeidman is chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

As the United States Secretary of Education, I want to thank all of you here today for your commitment to commemorating and learning from the past. Earlier today, we visited the ravine at Babyn Yar, which became the final resting place for 100,000 innocent men, women, and children. Many were killed for their religious and political beliefs; others for where they were born or for the way they looked. They were all victims of hatred and intolerance.

Even today, 65 years later, it’s difficult to come to terms with the scale of the atrocity and the systematic cruelty with which it was carried out. In the first few days of the massacre, 33,000 Jews were marched to the edge of the ravine and gunned down.

The perpetrators tried to hide their crimes from the world, but your presence today shows they failed. The dead were buried and burned, but their lives will not be forgotten. Anatoly Kuznetsov was one of the lucky ones. He survived to write a famous book about Babyn Yar. As he put it, “History will not be cheated, and nothing can be hidden forever.”

Today, we’re committed to honoring his words by remembering the past and passing on the lessons of this terrible tragedy to the next generation. In the 20th century, we saw what happens when ignorance and prejudice go unchallenged, and we must teach our children to confront these forces in their own lives. A more hopeful, peaceful future depends on advancing the values of respect, compassion, and freedom and that begins with education.

We have a responsibility to help our children understand what happened here and at similar sites across Europe. Through education, we can help protect future generations from a similar fate. In the United States, we opened the national Holocaust museum in Washington, DC. It’s a memorial to those who died as well as a center of learning. More than 24 million people have visited the museum since it opened, and the history and lessons taught there still resonate today.

In his book, Mr. Kuznetsov wrote, “Looking at our yesterday, we think of tomorrow.” For all of us here today, it’s a reminder that we must do our part to make sure history does not repeat itself.

On behalf of President Bush and the American delegation, I want to thank President Yushchenko and the Ukrainian people for inviting us here to join in remembering the past and dedicating ourselves to a brighter future.

Thank you.

Dallas Officials Go "Reading First" With Title I and 21st Century Funds

Just when you start to think that only federal officials can get lazy, greedy, or both, Dallas Morning News stars Kent Fischer and Molly Motley Blythe report that some Dallas school officials may have "gone Reading First" with federal education funds -- been playing it fast and loose with Title I and 21st Century program dollars (DISD misused federal grants). It's not quite the same as misdirecting billions in Reading First grants, but it's a step in the right direction, doncha think?

Meanwhile, the Balt Sun tells the Reading First scandal story from Bob Slavin's perspective: "Four years ago, a nonprofit education firm called Success for All occupied four floors in a Towson office building and employed 500 people. Hundreds of schools across the country were signing up to use its highly regarded reading curriculum, which stresses phonics." (Favoritism guided funds for reading, report says)

Three Takes On The Spellings Speech

Fascinating to see how three different papers treat Secty Spellings' speech on higher ed reform yesterday, with some like the NYT's Sam Dillon emphasizing her commitment to reform and results (Secretary Vows to Improve Results of Higher Education), while others like AP's Ben Feller taking a softer line about efforts to easet the process (Spellings Offers to Ease College Process ). Then, over at the Seattle Times, they make it sound like she's bashing higher ed at a high pitch (Education secretary assails state of colleges ). Lots of overlap, too, but...

AFTERNOON UPDATE: The Houston Chronicle gets straight to the response/potential impact of the report and Spellings' pronouncements, and comes away pretty pessimistic about real or widespread action coming from the Miller commission's work. I'd concur, given that nothing's happening until next year, that Miller is going home, and all the rest of Congress's distractions. Same thing could easily happen to the Aspen Institute NCLB Commission's work.

UPDATE 2: In a post entitled Spellings Commission DOA?, Sherman Dorn looks into his crystal ball and lists which provisions he thinks will get enacted, fully or partially.

Michael Dannenberg Needs Help (No, Not That Kind)

The think tank hiring just never seems to stop these days, and now it's New America's education guru Michael Dannenberg who's on the prowl for a couple of education stars.

Specifically, he's looking for an Associate Director, Education Policy Research & Analysis, and a Policy Analyst, Education Policy Program.

These lucky folks will join rugged-looking Justin King (left), who, according to his bio, put in six long years working for Jim Jeffords on early childhood issues. (I never met him up there, but I left in 1907 and didn't get out much.)


Tim Shanahan Gauges The Impact of The Reading First Scandal

Tim Shanahan, who designed and implemented the Chicago Reading Intiative and is a former member of the National Reading Panel, writes in to describe some of the implications and effects of the Reading First scandal.

Some of the highlights of what Shanahan says include the reality that RF provides $1 billion a year in "new" money that would otherwise probably not be available through Title I or other sources:

He also points out the significance of the creation of the RF program: "It is the first major effort by the federal government to try to improve the quality of reading instruction in particular ways, rather than just funding local efforts to do that."

According to Shanahan, the longer-term effects of the scandal are hard to determine: "It is possible that Congress will ignore the positive effects some Reading First programs have had so far and will choose not to reauthorize this portion of NCLB...It could also mean that the Reading First programs in [states like] Illinois would be allowed to adjust their current efforts if these were the result of the federal finagling."

Last but not least, he points out what many have said -- that the scandal could undermine the fragile truce that has marked recent years when it comes to reading strategies: "The Reading First scandal could energize those who have argued against this law, plunging schools back into the so-called “Reading Wars,” the endless debates over how best to teach reading."

Click below to read his full statement.


The full Shanahan post:

"On September 22, the U.S. Department of Education issued a report revealing corruption in its administration of Reading First, a part of the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB). This report detailed results of an investigation carried out by the department’s own Inspector General and provides specific and damning evidence of mismanagement and misuse of educational funding.

"Reading First is important because it provides approximately $1 billion per year to U.S. schools for reading improvement in schools that lag behind. Chicago Public Schools have been able to draw tens of millions of dollars to support local reading efforts. It is the first major effort by the federal government to try to improve the quality of reading instruction in particular ways, rather than just funding local efforts to do that.

"Schools that accepted these funds were required to purchase commercial programs designed in accord with research findings, to provide professional development to teachers, to monitor children’s learning, and to offer specific help to those who lagged behind. The Inspector General’s report details how some private companies and consultants were advantaged by government officials who stacked expert panels and pushed the purchase of certain materials. U.S. law prohibits the Department of Education from taking such actions.

"The corruption detailed in the report is substantial and some groups such as the International Reading Association have called on the Attorney General to issue indictments. Chris Doherty, the director of Reading First, has resigned, and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has indicated that steps will be taken to bring the program into legal compliance.

"However, the wake of this scandal is likely to have some widespread effects. It is possible that Congress will ignore the positive effects some Reading First programs have had so far and will choose not to reauthorize this portion of NCLB. This would mean that there would be less federal funding available to help Chicago and other districts to improve reading scores.

"It could also mean that the Reading First programs in Illinois would be allowed to adjust their current efforts if these were the result of the federal finagling. For instance, Illinois was required to adopt DIBELS as the measure used to monitor learning, and the state or local districts might be able to replace this with something more to their liking. The Reading First scandal could energize those who have argued against this law, plunging schools back into the so-called “Reading Wars,” the endless debates over how best to teach reading."

What You Missed At The Final Session of the Commission On NCLB

The Commission held its last roundtable at the George Washington University Jack Morton Auditorium, and the most memorable part of the morning session that I got to see was when the microphones went out during Ray Simon's response to a panel member's question towards the end of his session.

Here's some of the initial coverage of the event: Panel's chairman urges changes in No Child Left Behind law SJ Mercury, Bulk of No Child 'here to stay,' but changes sought Philly Inquirer. You can find testimony and more here: Commission on No Child Left Behind - Aspen Institute.

Spellings Cheerleads NCLB, Chides Media For Hypocrisy

The timing of Today's SF Chronicle op-ed by Secty Spellings on NCLB's accomplishments seems strange, given yesterday's NCLB commission hearing, the release of the Spellings Commission report on higher ed, and the Reading First scandal (aka "Dribels"?). But there she is (Is the feds' lesson plan working? / YES:), touting increases and improvements she attributes to NCLB, and calling editorial pages to task for worrying about international competitiveness and complaining about NCLB stringency at the same time:

In the piece, she writes: "Curiously, some of the same editorial writers and talking heads who wring their hands about economic competitiveness are the first to complain that NCLB is too onerous, that it sets the bar too high."

Morning Round-up September 26, 2006

Spellings Back Ideas to Shake Up College WaPo
Spellings wants to make choosing, affording and succeeding in college easier for families. A collection of confidential information will re-vamp USDE's current college website for better comparision of colleges and make applying for federal aid a speedier process.

When the teacher brings the apple CSM (via Jimmy K)
Based on a 2003 survey teachers end up shelling out more than $443 a year -- these purchases have become part of the public-school culture. In other professions, such out of pocket expenses would be compensated or discouraged.

Early schooling seen as top priority
Wisconsin could lead the nation in making early childhood education a top priority. Citing early education as the best investment for building a better work force and preventing a bevy of social problems, businesses will lead the charge for expanding learning opportunities for children under 5.

US schools to receive hazard warning radios
Boston Globe
After the success that a hazard radio provided for schools in New England, the government planned to annouce today that it will supply hazard radios to all 97,000 public schools in the U.S.


"Dribels" Scandal Trumps All, Enters Political Arena

It makes you feel bad seeing the announcements from the House education committee Republicans about their hearing tomorrow on colleges and Internet piracy (here) and trying to pay attention to the droning over at the NCLB Commission when, nearly simultaneously, ranking member Miller is making political and perhaps substantive hay by putting out calls for a Justice Department on the late-breaking Reading First scandal (aka "Dribels"?).

The Miller quote: "The Inspector General’s report raises serious questions about whether Education Department officials violated criminal law, and those questions must be pursued by the Justice Department....President Bush claims to believe that a taxpayer dollar should be ‘spent wisely or not at all,’ yet he has consistently failed to hold anyone in his administration accountable when they violate ethics rules, break the law, or waste taxpayer dollars.”

Last week, we read about how NCLB was a campaign issue in at least some places (NCLB As A Campaign Issue? Yes.). This call for a criminal inquiry is clearly political -- written just as much by the DCCC as Miller's office. What next, politicians arguing about DIBELS and PALs during debates? Now that would be a sight.

TUESDAY UPDATE: No time to explain it all now, but even beyond the upcoming elections Reading First may also have at least some effect -- probably not a constructive one -- on NCLB reauthorization and the national standards campaign.

Neither Spellings Nor Dems On Board With National Testing

In all the predictable hullabaloo surrounding last week's Washington Post editorial by former Ed Secretaries Bill Bennett and Rod Paige (Why We Need a National School Test), no one (including me) seemed to note the absence of prominent Democratic support for the idea -- or even any murmurs of support from Secty Spellings. (In fact, I think I recall she said it wouldn't be a part of any Administration proposal.) Again, I'm not opposed to the idea, and would make it so if I could only find my magic wand. But with Fordham apparently on the outs with the current USDE leadership, and no Dick Riley or Ted Kennedy coming out for the national testing idea, where does it go?

TUESDAY UPDATE: Eduwonk calls me cranky -- but then comes to pretty much the same cranky conclusion (The Noise Knows!).

Kosar's Korner: Re-Thinking Accountability

Exquisitely timed to concide with the NCLB Commission's final hearing this morning, guest columnist Kevin Kosar -- author of Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005) -- weighs in on the AYP "time bomb":
Education Week’s September 20 copy carries a front page titled, "As AYP Bar Rises, More Schools Fail." Lynn Olson’s piece cites some of the factors that are causing this to happen (more tests, more subgroup members being tested, etc.).

Oddly absent, though, is any mention that “adequate yearly progress,” (AYP) the central metric of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), is a time bomb.


With each passing year, the percentage of schools that fail to make AYP must climb. Since the law requires all schools to ultimately have 100 percent of their students scoring proficiently, ultimately, nearly every school will fall into “school improvement” status, wherein painful consequences kick in.

Don’t believe it? Well, then, have a peek at the test scores of the very best public schools (e.g., Murch ES, Janney ES) in Washington, DC. These schools are in the most affluent parts of town, have few low-income children attending them, and possess well-regarded staff. Not a single one of them has gotten 100 percent of their pupils to proficiency. These schools get between 85 and 95 percentile before hitting a sticking point.

So, NCLB’s accountability needs to be rethought. As originally drafted, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) only provided for bureaucratic accountability. States that took Title I money had to show they were spending it for the purposes authorized under the law. Not surprisingly, lots of taxpayers’ money was spent but improvements in schooling were small. NCLB, riding on the heels of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act of 1996, made states accountable for educational performance. NCLB also made school districts accountable to parents by creating a right to free tutoring and public school choice for children in schools that fail to make AYP.

Now that model of accountability is going ker-fluey. What is to be done?

Perhaps the place to start is to consider the basics of accountability. Where does accountability lie now? Well, under NCLB, schools are responsible to parents, school districts, and states; school districts are responsible to states and the federal government; states are responsible to the federal government; and the federal government is responsible to … Hmmm, good question.

Next, let’s ask: where should accountability lie? Answer that question and we are on the way to drafting a better accountability metric.
You can find Kosar's book here: Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards

Morning Round-up September 25, 2006

Audit Finds Ethical Lapses In U.S. Reading Program AP
The government audit finds that the Reading First program has been beset by conflicts of interest and willful mismangement. It also says that program review panels were stacked with people who shared the director's view's and that only favored publishers of reading curricula could get money.

Newsweek to Team Up With Kaplan to Offer Online M.B.A. NYT
What credibilty do Kaplan and Newsweek bring the M.B.A business? The answer, as anyone with an M.B.A. knows, is synergy: bith Newsweek and Kaplan are owned by the Washington Post Company.

State, PBS focus on teaching skills
eSchool News
The IDEAS program or Internet Delivered Education for Arkansas Schools is designed to help teachers complete 60 hours of required professional development each year as manadated by the state legislature.

Hub officials confirm they have a new school chief Boston Globe
Manuel J. Rivera will become Boston's superintendent of schools next July. He is currently superintendent of Rochester, N.Y. schools and will be Boston's first Hispanic superintendent.


Week In Review September 18-24


More On For-Profit Philanthropy:
Let's Be "Thought Partners"

Last week, I wrote about whether a "for-profit" education philanthropy like the one Google announced might be able to do more things, more effectively, than the current crop of nonprofit foundations (Does School Reform Need A For-Profit Philanthropy?).

Most (all two) of you who wrote in thought it was a dumb idea. But this week, Lincoln Caplan (whom I happened to meet at a Spencer Foundation conference recently), reviews in Slate just where the notion of for-profit philanthropy fits in (apparently it's the logical extension of "venture philanthropy") and highlights some of the advantages -- and disadvantages -- a for-profit philanthropy would experience (Is Google.org the future of philanthropy? Slate). My favorite line:
"In the world of philanthropy, for instance, if you are getting to know someone and haven't yet figured out how she can serve your interests, but you want to keep her close, you call her your "thought partner." As a former journalist, I can't help noticing that the phrase's optimism runs ahead of its clarity."

"Think Tank Noise": When The Events & Op-Eds Replace The Work

I love the phrase "think tank noise" that Andy Rotherham uses here in a post about Fordham, Bennett, and Paige endorsing (practiced yawn) national standards: Bennett Bets Big On National Standards.

Now, in all fairness, "think tank noise" is phrase that I'm sure the Fordham folks would want to use to describe at least some of the Ed Sector's work as well, but for those of us standing a little bit outside that world it's obvious: there is so much think tank noise these days, filling our email inboxes with announcements and new "research," exhausting us with events and op-eds (but very little direct work with lawmakers, government agencies, or... whatever you call those brick buildings with the noisy kids in them). I'm tired just thinking about it. (And, sitting here writing about it, I'm no better.)

The Gad-Blast

As you may recall, I have complained in the past about the near-impossible and mildy discombobulating task of reading both The Gadfly, from Fordham, and the NewsBlast, from PEN -- two publications from different points of view, both of whom insist on publishing late on Thursdays.

Anyway, to help everyone out, here's a "mash-up" of the two publications smushed together, which I like to call "The Gad-Blast." A sample:

WHAT THE PUBLIC REALLY WANTS ON EDUCATION... national standards and tests!

And, BEYOND NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ... an artful brouhaha.


See, now wasn't that easier?

UPDATE: Fordham's Mike Petrilli says that this is not nearly as funny as The Gadfly Show. PEN's Howie Shaffer says I missed a good (if not PC) one: "YOUTH PERCEPTIONS OF MENTAL ILLNESS: Bugged out."


Whatever Happened To Peer Review?

Peer review used to be a somewhat popular approach to addressing teacher quality issues (and a hope-inspiring example of union-management cooperation). And then it fall off the face of the earth (or seemed to). Now, Chicago -- of all places, where a reform-minded union leader was recently ousted and there is increasing talk of strike possibilities -- is trying to bring a version of it back in a small set of schools (Rookie teachers will be graded by a `coach' Chicago Tribune).

NCLB As A Campaign Issue? Yes.

The Hill reports that, surprise, surprise, NCLB is actually an issue in some Congressional races (No Child Left Behind stirs Conn. campaigns). "Diane Farrell, the Democratic former town selectwoman mounting a strong challenge to Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), has ranked No Child Left Behind alongside the Iraq war among issues where Shays, an avowed centrist, aligned himself with the Bush White House." Of course, it's not a widespread theme in most races, and many incumbents have complicated records on voting for it and its funding, but it's nice to hear that it's on the radar in at least some places.

Study/Life Coaches for College Students -- High Schools Next?

We all could use a little help getting ourselves organized and prioritizing or work. Athletes, executives, and everyday joes and janes have coaches now, of various flabors. And I guess college students are no different. That's why Inside Track is being hired by a small but growing number of colleges to help students manage their lives (Outside Help for 'Coaching' Students Inside HigherEd). Are high schools students next? I bet they will be -- or already are in some places.

Wendy Kopp Doesn't Care About Classroom Dropouts

I had the chance yesterday to hear Wendy Kopp speak to a group of TFA and school reform folks in Chicago, and -- this may be news to no one but me -- it struck me that Kopp and TFA are not only an amazingly successful and positive-thinking outfit but also that they frankly may not care about the retention of their teachers, an issue that frustrates so many educators.

Sure, they want their teachers to make it through the two year stint they've signed up for, and of course to have a positive impact on student learning. But there isn't a lot of imperative from what I could make out for TFA to make sure that TFAers make it past two years, or stay in the classroom. Instead -- this is the "secret" plot -- Kopp seems to be focused on the diffuse impact of the alums, who frequently remain in education as school leaders, reform group folks, and policymakers.

In this sense, TFA isn't really just about what it was originally designed to do --bringing smart if untrained teachers to urban classrooms. It's a movement, a broader effort hidden inside a popular and concrete initiative. I wonder if everyone knows that but me, and what it feels like to the TFA corps members when they realize that their efforts -- often heroic -- aren't really what's most important to the organization that recruited them. Teaching in the 408 was right.

Morning Round-Up, September 21

Optimism, but little headway so far on college readiness effort SJMercury
California's ambitious effort to better prepare high school students for college hasn't budged test scores yet, but educators say they believe it will eventually cut the percentage of freshmen who arrive at the state's public universities needing remedial classes.

Why We Need a National School Test Education News
We need to find better and more efficient ways to produce an educated population and close the achievement gaps in our education system. Americans do ultimately get themselves educated -- at work, after school, online, in adulthood -- but a lot of time and money are wasted in the process.

Intervention, Tests Suggested to Stop Inflation of Titles WPost
The National Center for Educational Accountability said that there are no easy solutions to course-label inflation but that the best remedies focus on these eight elements:

In Many Classrooms, 'Honors' in Name Only WPost
During a visit in March to an honors sophomore English class in an impoverished area of Connecticut, Robyn R. Jackson heard the teacher declare proudly that her students were reading difficult texts. But Jackson noticed that their only review of those books was a set of work sheets that required...

More Small Women’s Colleges Opening Doors to Men NYT
Small liberal arts colleges for women are increasingly struggling against financial pressures to win applicants in an era of unbounded choice.

Single-gender Schools on the Rise Stateline
The number of public schools experimenting with single–sex education is still small but has shot up in recent years –– from five to at least 241 in the last decade –– as districts in more than half the states take the chance that separating boys and girls will help students learn better.


What To Say About "The Wire"? Education Doesn't Win Elections.

I know lots of folks don't get HBO and don't watch the show, but lots of folks, including The Quick and the Ed, Slate, and others are all agog about The Wire and -- incidentally for some -- its depiction of urban education on the west side of Baltimore. (Me, too -- I'm working on a piece for Slate.)

So far, the most telling, and dispiriting moment so far in the season hasn't been the depictions of kids who can't multiply, or whose caregivers don't, the drugs and violence on the street, or even the predictable sight of a completely unprepared teacher getting horrible PD. Instead, it was the depiction of the mayoral debate at the end of the show, in which the two main contenders focus on crime while the charismatic-less third challenger tries haplessly to get a word in edgewise about improving schools. You know he's going to lose the campaign, and that focusing on education rarely seems to win voters -- no matter what they say in polls.

Voters say they care about schools, but politicians know better. They care about their children's school -- about which they're often surprisingly satisfied as long as the school is orderly -- but not so much about schools and kids on the other side of town.

A Magazine So Good They Should Just Call It "TFA"

There is apparently a hot new magazine coming out, called Good, that is aimed at idealistic young adults and seems destined to feature TFA soon (if it hasn't already). Not that that's a bad thing. "The founders say they were motivated by a desire to contribute to society and express something on behalf of their generation," states the NYT article (A Magazine for Earnest Young Things). "A life in investment banking or a dot-com start-up wasn’t going to cut it for them. But neither was joining the Peace Corps. So, Good falls somewhere between: New Age meets new money Volunteerism meets the consumerist imperative."

The 85th Carnival of Education -- Up At The Median Sib

The most amusing category in today's carnival is Dealing With The Piles Of Money That Educators Make. Here's an example:

"Do you remember the news story about the retired teacher who died and left 1.3 million dollars to her school district? Well, Nina tells us how to retire rich on a teacher’s salary. And it doesn’t have anything to do with marrying money or robbing a bank either."

The Carnival is neatly organized and contains many editors' choice posts!

Morning Round-up September 20, 2006

'Lite' Choice in School Reform WaPo
The report by the Center on Education Policy cites the Prince Geoge's system as the emblematic of a national tred: When school systems are forced to take corrective action, they tend to choose the least radical -- and least corrective, it says -- option.

Choosing a College, With Help From the Web
Although some sites purport to calculate a student's likihod of winnin acceptance, the site Annie used, and similar ones, are like a computer dating service, matching students with potential compatible colleges.

No more teacher, no more books
Delaware News Journal (via JImmy K)
Welcome to the Microsoft-designed School of the Future, with no books -- wireless Internet allows students to access reference materials from everywhere in the building.

Gates Foundation Gives L.A. Charter School Group $1.8 Million LAT
The grant will support five charter schools opened this year by Green Dot Public Schools near Los Angeles Unified's Jefferson High School, which has been beset with racial strife and low academic performance.


Integrating Head Start & K12 School Systems

Anyone who's been around education for more than a little while knows that Head Start and K12 programs don't often interact very much, or very well, even though they're all serving the same kids (sometimes in the same school buildings).

There are complex political, financial, and racial reasons for this, and few successful efforts to integrate everyone's efforts into a system that would help kids more effectively. You should have seen what happened when I once floated the idea of revamping the Head Start formula so that the program served areas with growth in low-income child populations. Most recently, a first-term Bush proposal to bring Head Start over to the Education Department went nowhere.

But now at least some districts are taking steps -- who knows if they're ultimately positive ones -- to do what Washington hasn't. That's the story of this recent Washington Post story (School System Bids to Take Over Head Start), which notes that 19 percent of Head Start administrators nationwide are public school systems, and 15 percent are municipalities. The rest -- roughly two out of three Head Start programs -- are nonprofit organizations. I don't know if this is an increase, but I'm guessing so.

Morning Round-up September 19, 2006

Study says teacher training is chaotic Boston Globe
The coursework in teacher education programs is in disarray nationawide, the report from former president of Teachers College at Columbia University the report says. Unlike other professions such as law or medicine, there is no common length of study or set of required skills.

Gov. Signs Mayor's Dream Into Law LAT
Appearing together for a bill-signing ceremony at the Los Angeles Central Library, the officials said the change would bring new accountability to a system that fails students, teachers and parents.

Princeton Stops Its Early Admissions, Joining Movement to Make Process Fairer
A week after Harvard abandoned early admissions as a program that puts low-income students as a disadvantage, Princeton followed suit yesterday, saying it hoped other universities would do the same.

Lack Of Reliable Information Not Just Education's Problem

Just so you know, education isn't the only field where getting updated and reliable information about "what works?" to front-line practitioners (teachers, parents) is a challenge.

Just ask the guy who recently got stung by a jellyfish, was recommended all sorts of remedies (aren't you supposed to pee on the afflicted skin?), and then goes home and finds out that none of what he was told makes sense.

"We need an unbiased, efficient system to get the word out to practitioners on what works best," he writes (The Sting of Ignorance). "If the Vineyard beach first responders had known of the latest research results, they wouldn’t have done everything they could to transfer toxin from the jellyfish tentacle to my leg."

Sound familiar? Sure. Sort of reassuring? Yep.


What Prompts Readers To Comment?

What prompts you to write a comment on a blog? As I was reading Jenny D's blog I was noticing her relatively large numbers of comments (meaning: she has them, regularly, unlike many other education blogs), I started thinking about what it was about her posts that prompted some many comments.

For example, Jenny D posts often enough -- not every day, not several times a day, but often enough. Maybe that encourages readers to reflect rather than move on to the next post. Also, her posts are well researched an thoughtful, which is not always the case on other blogs. It's worth noting that she includes many of her own personal experiences she encounters while pursuing her doctoral degree, which may also engage readers. And she often asks a prompting question or discusses a person or event that brought up controversial issues -- rather than purporting to have the answer. Of course, Jenny D has also developed a "fan club," a handful of people who tend to comment often on the same blog, regardless of the topic.

Comment sections are great places for the real "debates" to take place, and for bloggers to learn and think as well as pontificate.

Levine Slashes Teacher Prep Programs -- To An Extent

Working on an upcoming article about standout teacher preparation programs last week, I had the chance to interview Arthur Levine about his just-released study (Educating School Teachers), which includes familiar and daunting data about the poor quality of most programs and limited information about their impact on teacher retention and student achievement.

What struck me then -- and seems most relevant now -- is that Levine for all his scathing criticism is still not ready to talk about getting rid of ed schools as the main place for teacher prep (including alt cert, which is often done through ed schools). He's definitely for competition, and new innovations -- do it yourself credentialing programs, for example -- but not as far as I could tell for opening up the classroom doors to anyone who's passed a test, for example.

That won't satisfy many who want to go further. Even more important, it remains unclear how, if at all, any of what Levine sees and recommends becomes reality. Teacher preparation often gets attention, but all too rarely does it get any real action.

Previous Posts: Ed Schools Push Back Against Practicality

Morning Round-up September 18, 2006

Teaching Math, Singapore Style NYT
Under the new (old) plan, students will once again move through the basics building the skills that are meant to prepare them for algebra by seventh grade. This new approach is being seen as an attempt to emulate countried like Signapore, which ranks at the top internationally in math.

Good Show! School following British curriculum opens in NY
Boston Globe
There will be a far greater emphasis on world history and geography. English classes will tackle well-known British authors. Spelling will be in British style and sports will include a children's version of cricket.

Students Vexed by Glitch-Laden Test
Some students descrcibe a shortage of seats in testing centers. There also are reports of technical snags that have led to last minute cancellations of scheduled tests.

USAT's Greg Toppo Describes Value Of Teacher Blogs - Refers To This Site

In this article from Sunday, USA Today's Greg Toppo discusses the spread of blogs written by teachers, and their benefits and drawbacks: Teachers speak out of turn. Some of the blogs (History Is Elementary), and the stories behind them (Fast Time At Regnef High), will be familiar. But there are a few stories I hadn't heard, and appropriate mention of Joanne Jacobs and The Education Wonks for regularly highlighting teacher blogs. Toppo also quotes me about the value of teacher blogs and mentions this site's coverage of education blog trends.


Week In Review September 11-17


Missed Chances (Things I Should Have Written About)

California Schools May Get Break from Bad Teachers SF Chronicle
The new law would no longer require principals in low-scoring schools to hire unwanted teachers. Like Balboa, these rank 1, 2, or 3 on the state's 10-point Academic Performance Index. Principals in higher-scoring schools would have a window of time each year to hire whom they please -- beginning on April 15 and running through the summer.

A is for Afro Mother Jones
For the only white student in class, St. James elementary offered a double major in minority experience.

The Lunchroom Rebellion New Yorker via ChefAnn
"Come on!" Cooper said. "The war costs more than a billion dollars a week! Why don't we say we'll double what we spend on school lunch?...I want to sue the U.S.D.A.!" I'd heard her say, her eyes gleaming. "I want Oprah to pick this up! I want school lunch to be an election issue in 2008!" But first she had a few thousand mouths to feed.

When Toddlers Turn on the TV and Actually Learn NYT
"Blue’s Clues,” which celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, has been credited with helping young children learn from the screen. Academic research has shown that viewers ages 3 to 5 score better on tests of problem solving than those who haven’t watched the show.But what happens with children younger than 3?

Report Urges Changes in the Teaching of Math in U.S. Schools NYT
In a major shift from its influential recommendations 17 years ago, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics yesterday issued a report urging that math teaching in kindergarten through eighth grade focus on a few basic skills.

Can ECS Make It?

It's no secret that the Education Commission of the States has been going through some rough times lately. Most notably the resignations of many senior policy and accounting analysts this past May and the poor fiscal health that former President Piedad F. Robertson hasn't been able overcome. With philanthropic interests moving away from broad issue groups and focusing more on specific issue groups it is not clear that ECS's financial problems will be able to be resolved soon.

When Governor Kathleen Sebelius took over as chair in July she admitted that although the three main sources of revenue (state dues, grants and contracts) were declining, a recent audit said the finances were "in pretty good shape." Progress continues this week with the announcement of Interim President Roderick Chu and the development of a survey in an effort to have a more open, transparent relationship with ECS's stakeholders and supporters.

Is the ECS really making progess in the right direction, or will this lead nowhere?

Previous Post: Are There Too Many Education Groups?

Morning Round-up September 15, 2006

Education Secretary 'open-minded' to NCLB Changes Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Secretary Spellings is open to the fact that Congress might require new testing methods and revise special education provisions when the No Child Left Behind Act comes up for reauthorization next year.

Debate Grows as Colleges Slip in Graduations NYT
About 50 colleges across the country have a six-year graduation rate below 20 percent, but who should be held accountable?

Opting Out of Private School WSJ
A growing number of students are leaving private schools for public, as tuition soars and colleges accept more public-schools students.

Kindergartener gets suspension for popper CST
The principal imposed a four-day suspension, telling the boy's mother the popper quaified as an explosive device.


Does School Reform Need A For-Profit Philanthropy?

For many folks in the education and philanthropy worlds, non-profit status is considered somethin akin to a "good housekeepking" seal. It means you're a do-gooder. One of us.

But, as many foundation staffers and nonprofit EDs will tell you, being nonprofit has its drawbacks, not all of which can be bridged through "venture philanthropy," social entrepreneurship, and other nontraditional approaches to funding worthy efforts that have popped up with varying degrees of success in the foundation world. (Just as the folks at the New Schools Venture Fund, for example -- but remind them to invite me to their fancy annual confab next year while you're at it.)

Now, according to a very enthusiastic article in the NYT, comes Google.org, a new, for-profit foundation that -- not limited by its nonprofit status -- can do all sorts of things other philanthropies can't (Philanthropy Google’s Way). For example, it can start a company, finance a for-profit venture, give money to individuals, and -- perhaps most notably -- lobby governmental officials.

The focus for Google.org isn't on education, alas. But the approach sounds pretty interesting, if you ask me. Maybe some of the next wave of education funders will think about for-profit status and get to play more broadly in the world they're trying to reform, or some frustrated nonprofit funder will decide to ditch the nonprofit shackles and go for it.

Blogger Burnout...And Renewal

The Endless Faculty Meeting, one of the longest-running education blogs with the best names out there, is calling it quits after what looks like more than two years of posts at the site (Reflections on Teaching and Learning).

The explanation is brief but will resonate with anyone out there blogging these days -- especially after the first rush fades away: "I've too many things to do to keep it going and give it the time it needs and there are many others out there in the blog world talking about the same things and doing a better job of it."

As education blogs proliferate -- especially professionally run newspaper or ed organization ones with paid staff -- my guess is that more than a few folks will drop out this year. It won't necessarily be a good thing.

On the other hand, a promising new type of group watchdog blog seems to be proliferating outside of the education world -- blogs that highlight federal waste and earmarks, and do all sorts of other group sleuthing that reporters and single bloggers can't do ('Blogosphere' spurs government oversight). Porkbusters is one example, and Sunlight.com is another. With sites like this, we could track the spread of ideas, the movements of education leaders, and even vendor contracts. Geeky, but very cool.

UPDATE: Over at edspresso, Ryan Boots says there'll be more growth than attrition, and that "paid bloggers" like him aren't going to take over the world.

UPDATE 2: AFT John is taking a break, says AFT Michele.

Morning Round-up September 14, 2006

More Time Given for Grading Schools NYT
The Education Department gave states final permission Wednesday to leave out the test scores of newly enrolled pupils who speak limited English when grading schools to give those students extra time to work when grading schools.

Advanced Placement Isn't the Only Road to College Success
Smart students don't need AP courses to succeed in college, but they might be better off with real life work and social skills.

Laptops raise stakes for student safety Philly Inquirer
(from Jimmy K)
Students are told to give up the laptop if threatened and the laptops have a phone home feature that tells law enforcement where to find it.


Check Out The Personals In Today's Carnival

Today the Carnival of Education opens on Andy Pass's The Current Events in Education. The Carnival, It's a Newspaper...Carnival of Education 84 (Many Links) is in the form of a newspaper. It includes sections such as Sports, Culture, Editorials and Science.

The most interesting section is the "Personals" section...
Darren pounces on educational fads in his post Forging Relationships With Students posted at Right on the Left Coast: Views From a Conservative Teacher. Colleen King asksDo Your Students Model Their Math Problems? posted at Math Playground She points us towards a useful website that provides modeling tools.


Maybe I'm not the only one who missed this "breaking news" from last month in The Onion: U.S. Dedicates $64 Billion To Undermining Gates Foundation Efforts.

"The Bush Administration unveiled a new $64 billion spending package Monday for a joint CIA–Pentagon program aimed at neutralizing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's global humanitarian network."

I know more than a few people -- most of them not fans of the Bush administration -- who only wish that it were true. Via Mike Lach's Teach and Learn.

In a much more serious take on the same topic, Samuel Freedman opines in today's NYT education column that the influx of private dollars into a school system often comes without very much accountability for some of its efforts (The Not-So-Public Part of the Public Schools:): "This not-so-public part of the public school system has received more than $330 million in grants and donations from private sources over the past three years, according to Education Department statistics."

USDE Not Sure SAT or ACT Good Enough For AYP

Over at Education Week, Lynn Olson's got an interesting overview of state efforts to require or embed college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT into state assessment systems, in the hopes that it will put more kids in the chute for college attendance and raise expectations for high school at the same time (In More States, It’s Now ACT or SAT for All). The effort mirrors past attempts to get all kids to apply for college, or eliminating basic tracks and making everyone take the same test (like the Regents in NY.) Ironically, it's the USDE that is throwing a wrench into the works, making states wait to find out whether this effort passes NCLB muster.

Morning Round-up September 13, 2006

The Not-So-Public Part of the Public Schools: Lack of Accountability NYT
It is clear that Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Klein have indeed created a third way, though many might not realize it. Their reinvented school system has many more private components than ever before, which come under very little out scrutiny.

'No Child' Leaves Too Much Behind WaPo
Part of Washington Post's Think Tank Town series, Brian Stecher writes on the topic of NCLB

How mayor brokered end of school strike
Detriot News from Jimmy K
Ten hours later, after coffee, catfish and chocolate cake, the two sides had hashed out a deal with the mayor and two of his top staffers -- and without the mediators who sat with them for weeks.


Media Watch: Supposed Home-Schooled "Lonelygirl15" Entrances Media, May Be Faked

It isn't just the Administration that's trying to keep us scared and confused. First, there's all the MySpace fear-mongering in the media. Then there's the embarassing hype and fascination with technology like YouTube and its "stars."

In the post below, Mark Glaser at PBS's MediaShift chronicles the sudden Internet fame of Lonelygirl15, a pretty-faced YouTube star named "Bree" who was purported to be a home-schooled 16 year-old and whose story, such as it was, garnered a tremendous amount of somewhat creepy mainstream media attention (Help Solve the Lonelygirl15 Mystery). Now it turns out -- surprise, surprise -- she may be fake. With whip-saw coverage of youth technology like this, how are we ever supposed to get anywhere?

Urban Education On TV: The Wire, Boys of Baraka

There are at least two TV shows this fall that focus at least in part on urban education -- specifically the plight of children in Baltimore's public schools. One, season four of the HBO show "The Wire," focuses in part on the lives of four middle school boys who may or may not become part of the drug life that is the main focus of the show. The other, on PBS, called "The Boys of Baraka," shows the path of several troubled Baltimore boys who go to Kenya for an intensive residential academic and life experience. All boys, all Baltimore.

Bu what will viewers see about urban schools from these shows -- and will it be accurate? According to a LA Times review of the show (Hard lessons for life), The Wire presents "a largely dysfunctional school system often incapable of protecting its charges." There's in-school violence, and open recruiting for drug gangs. And -- perhaps most realistic of all -- their teacher is a rookie without much training (an inept and possibly racist former police officer from previous seasons). They got that part right. Boys of Baraka airs in many places tonight, but this NYT review (Trading in Baltimore Stoops for a Schoolhouse in Kenya) says that the show is part urban drama, part nature special, and completely heartbreaking -- not because of what happens to the kids who participate, but rather because of what happens to the program.

Seen or going to see either, I'd love to hear your thoughts or reactions. You can post them here as comments (anonymously if you want) or send them to me at AlexanderRusso@gmail.com.

Morning Round-up September 12, 2006

As Homework Grows, So Do Arguments Against It WaPo
Harris Cooper, professor at Duke University says: elementary schoolers gain no academic benefit from homework, middle schoolers loose academic benefit after 1 1/2 hours and high school students loose academic benefit after 2 hours.

U.S. Spends More on Education, Gets Worse Results, OECD Finds Bloomberg.com
The U.S. spendsd more on primary and secondary education than most developed countries, yet only outperformed 5 of the 30 countries analyzed the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported.

Study: H.S. dropouts face steeper costs AP
The annual study "Education at a Glance" found that the penalties for dropping out of high school are more severe in the work force in the U.S. than in any other country.


Spellings' Spinelessness Returns, Blogosphere Responds

The NCLB HOUSSE standards for teachers have been something of a joke nearly from the start, and after just a few moments of seeming reform-mindedness earlier this year (declaring that states should stop the madness and seeming to be interested in teacher equity as well), Spineless Spellings has gone back to her old ways and declared that states can continue using them -- basically punting after many states were already in the chute to dump HOUSSE.

AP's Ben Feller covers it pretty straight (as he should) in last week Ed. Dept. Eases Teacher Quality Rule. Over at Eduwonk, Andy declares that Spellings et al are again going "extra-legal" -- a phrase that for some reason makes me giggle ("If you don't clean up your room, young man, I'm going to go extra legal on you."). Over at the AFT Blog (HOUSSE Renovations), you can almost see Beth smirking as she types " I guess the HOUSSE just moved from the 0.1 % of NCLB that was impure to the 99.9 % of the law that is pure." But once again you're left wondering just where the AFT stands.

UPDATE: AFT Beth writes in: "Yes, sometimes I smirk when I blog...the AFT supports maintaining the HOUSSE as an option for veteran teachers to demonstrate that they are highly qualified."

UPDATE 2: Ryan Boots at edspresso weights in (Spellings and NCLB standards).

Monday Afternoon News

Some more tasty news and commentary for a Monday afternoon:

Preparing Hispanic Parents and Children for School NYT
A museum on Long Island is offering a program to introduce children from immigrant Hispanic families to an American classroom before they walk into one.

Schools Welcome a New Baby Boom NPR
American school enrollment will be higher this year than at the peak of the fabled baby boom. If history holds true, these bright-faced new boomers can expect to hold a lot of power down the road.

Da HipHop Raskalz, Kickin' It Grade School NPR
Da HipHop Raskalz are grade-school students in Harlem who make their own kind of music... much of it about candy. Their producer is an acclaimed classical musician with a rather unusual day job.

Summer Intern Already Forgotten

So much for the educational and professional benefits of interning -- at least according to The Onion ("America's Finest News Source"): "University Of Maryland senior Dan Klein said Friday that his unpaid internship at Beacon Press Publishing was the "best experience of [his] life." He predicted that the long hours he spent filing, photocopying, and answering phones would eventually ensure him a position at the company when he graduates next spring," according to Summer Intern Already Forgotten (The Onion). "But the Monday morning after his last week in the office, nobody on the 17-person staff had any recollection of who Dan Klein was or what exactly he did there."

Homework Help Business Grows, As Do Doubts

First there were private tutors helping Johnny or Jane with quadratic equations or spelling. Then for many years there was the Princeton Review and Kaplan doing high-end college test prep and more in little storefront operations. Next came school-based tutoring and academic enhancement programs, run by schools or contracted with private providers -- spurred in many cases by NCLB's tutoring requirement. Along the way, there was the old-school "Dial A Teacher" program, which relied on real live telphones of all things.

Now it's all going online, according to the NYT review of the latest trends in online homework help (If You Can Click a Mouse You Can Help on Homework). What's new is not so much that there's online homework help, offered commercially -- Brainfuse and Tutor.com are nothing new -- but rather than it's increasingly being offfered to individuals as well as schools or districts. AOL has also entered the fray. And, of course, some of the tutoring may be done from India. Not all the sites are useful, easy to use, and of course some cost money.

At the same time, there are a couple of new books out about how kids are getting too much homework that former US News education editor Ben Wildavsky reviews here. Wildavsky points out that concerns about homework -- just like concerns about oversized backpacks -- aren't new, and that the problem in most cases is lack of rigor. "...In the absence of more persuasive evidence that American kids are plagued by excessive, rather than insufficient, academic rigor -- homework included -- parents and policymakers should look elsewhere for a nuanced and reliable guide to this eminently worthy subject."

Morning Round-up September 11, 2006

At $9.95 a Page, You Expected Poetry? NYT
The New York Times experimented with three online term paper writing websites and asked professors to grade the papers -- the results are in!

How do we teach about the attacks?
Milwaukee JS
In Milwaukee, there are a few approaches to teaching about the attacks: one based mostly on the fact that a terrorist organization attack us an they only represent a small slice of the Muslim population, another based mostly on students learning about the world and asking their own questions about the attacks and anothher is just a simply ceremony with no talk of the specifics.

Defiant teachers vow to stay out
Detroit News
Detroit Public Schools are no closer to a contract and students will find out at 7pm tonight whether or not to report to school tomorrow.


Week In Review September 6 -10


Forget Teaching Kids Chinese In School -- Hire A Chinese Nanny

Lots of schools around the US are trying to ramp up their Mandarin instruction programs, most notably including Chicago. (Twenty years ago, it was Japanese, wasn't it?) But why not get a jump start on all that with...a nanny from China? That's what a small but increasing number of parents are doing, according to this widely-read NYT article (To Give Children an Edge, Au Pairs From China).

Un-Schooling In The Christian Science Monitor

The Christian Science Monitor, which I admonished earlier this year for its seeming dropoff in education coverage (see below), today puts out an interesting Amanda Paulson look at renewed interest in innovative-seeming dropout recovery programs that's come along with new, bracing dropout statistics (Push to win back dropouts).

It's not all new stuff for anyone who's following grad rates/DO prevention closely, but a couple of the programs profiled have done what all too few traditional schools (and even charters) have done: putting schools where the students are (malls, apartment buildings), scheduling around students' work and caregiving responsibilities, and otherwise "un-schooling" the traditional school as we know it.

Lots of people talk about this -- new schedules, online or hybrid learning, different administrative procedures, and the like -- but maybe some of these dropout recovery programs are leading the way.

Previous Post: The Christian Science Monitor Responds

"Alexander Russo Is The Best Blogger Ever."

Sometimes when readers here or (more often) on my Chicago blog are using the comments section to slam something I've said, or gotten wrong, I feel indignant at being abused in my own home and have the urge to defend myself.

Occasionally I pipe in to say, "hey, wait a minute." But I always reveal that it's me defending myself. Apparently that's just what amateurs do.

Under frequent and substantial attack on his own site, a New Republic blogger named Siegel apparently took to signing onto his own blog -- under a pseudonym -- and defending himself vigorously and anonymously against his critics (New Republic Suspends an Editor for Attacks on Blog). But he wasn't very subtle about it, which is part of how he got caught. For example, criticized for what he'd said about Jon Stewart's Daily Show, Siegel wrote in (as someone else) that “Siegel is brave, brilliant and wittier than Stewart will ever be. Take that, you bunch of immature, abusive sheep.”

Morning Round-up September 8, 2006

Agency eases stance over teacher quality AP
The Education Department will allow states to count teachers as highly qualified even under standards that may do little to ensure quality.

Dropout is now in, lesson learned Boston Globe
Boston Private Industry Council has hired outreach workers to counsel dropouts about going back to school. They received a committment of 34 students out of 1,660 student counseled, but could only confirm that 6 of the 34 students actually attended the first day of school.

Saying It 'Messed Up,' Facebook Modifies Controversial Feature Washington Post
Computer programmers at Facebook spent two days 'coding' to fix the News Feed function that so many users were unhappy with.

Secretary Spellings Announces Partnership with 100 Black Men Press Release
The partnership will make efforts to engage the African-American community in the elements of NCLB.


AFT John Vs. The Washington Post's Jay Mathews

AFT John starts off his Thursday with one of my favorite blogging tactics -- using someone else's attack as cover for your own. In this case, he's using a Sherman Dorm post about Jay Mathews on national standards to ... slam Jay Mathews on charter schools ( Sherman Dorm vs. Jay Mathews).

You see, Mathews wrote a cover story about national standards possibly being on their way to reality a few days ago, about which Dorm objects on substantive grounds (with some reason). But AFT John is really just pissed at Mathews about his "pro" charter school leanings.

Yes, it's unusual that the Post lets Mathews write as a beat reporter and as a columnist (and book author on the side). Yes, national standards are probably not going to happen just yet. But why is AFT John coming off so anti-charter, I wonder, given ... everything else?

Bonus Update: Reward The School, The Teacher, Or The Teacher Who Moves?

Focusing on Maryland and other nearby states, the Sun's Sara Neufeld updates what's going on the long-simmering but never quite widespread teacher bonus world (States turn to teacher bonuses). In the piece, she points out the programs' strengths and weaknesses (too new, too small, underfunded, potentially divisive), the union politics, and -- most interestingly -- points out that school-level rewards that were relatively popular a few years ago are being replaced by reward programs aimed at individual teachers. A smaller seeming set of bonus programs are more focused on the teacher equity issue -- getting successful teachers to move to high-need schools. Which is harder -- paying teachers for performance, or getting teachers to move to different schools?